Open Championship winners at Royal Troon Golf Club

The first Open was played at Troon in 1923 just two years before the last event was played at Prestwick It has featured some of the game's most historic names and also a few surprises.

 

58th Open Championship 1923 - The Open Championship came to Troon for the first time. The American challenge was led by the defending champion Walter Hagen. Hagen, who had won the first of his four Opens at Royal St George’s the previous year, was indeed in contention throughout, as was his compatriot MacDonald Smith. On the strength of three consecutive rounds of 73, Arthur Havers, an Englishman led Joe Kirkwood, the Australian trick-shot artist, by one stroke going into the final round. Trailing by another shot was the defender Walter Hagen. Havers’ approach on the 18th found a greenside bunker where he holed out for a 3 and a closing 76. Kirkwood slipped to 78 on his final round but Hagen was close to Havers’ all day. He came to the final hole needing a three to tie. Hagen’s approach from 160 yards, found the same bunker Havers had been in. With his customary dramatic flair, Hagen had the pin removed. While his shot was close it didn’t find the hole. The tall, unfancied schoolmasterly Englishman Arthur Havers was Champion, his total of 295 proved enough to beat Hagen by a stroke with Smith in third and he won £75.

 

78th Open Championship 1950 – It was 27 years since the Open had been played at Troon, after the Second World War. The entrants were largely homegrown or from the Commonwealth. The dominant players of the day were Peter Thomson, Gary Player and Bobby Locke the defending Champion. South Africa’s Bobby Locke took advantage of the firm conditions at Old Troon, he hardly used a driver and even more rarely missed a fairway. His relentless, careful skilful play over the two rounds played on the final day resulted in a total of 279 . It was two better than Roberto De Vicenzo with Ireland’s Fred Daly and Wales’ Dai Rees leading the home challenge. Locke had effectively defended the title that he had won the year before. The South African won the second of his four Open Championships at Troon in 1950. His score of 279 was a new record, beating the former best of 283. Locke won £300.

Locke was a WWII veteran of over 100 missions flying a Liberator in the South African Air Force. He was unfortunately badly injured when the car he was riding in was struck by a train near Cape Town just three years later. A footnote in Troon’s history came when a German amateur, Hermann Tissies, ran up a 15 at the famous 123 yard par three Postage Stamp.

 

91st Open Championship 1962 - Arnold Palmer was determined to give a boost to the Open Championship. Even though the limited prize fund at the time meant that most international players lost money on coming to play in the Open. It was Palmer’s view that a true champion needed to master the great British links and lift the Claret Jug to prove themselves an International star. His fellow citizens at Troon included Jack Nicklaus, Phil Rodgers and even Sam Snead. Nicklaus would take 10 at the 11th, the Railway Hole, in the opening round. Palmer was at his absolute peak as a golfer saying afterwards: “I have never, I mean never, played better golf.” By the midpoint, Palmer was two shots ahead of the Australian Kel Nagle. Nagle took the lead from Palmer early in their 36-hole final on Friday with birdies on the first two holes and a Palmer bogey from a fairway bunker on the fourth. Back-to-back birdies at the fifth and sixth put Palmer back in the lead by a stroke. He saved par at the 12th, then birdied the 13th, 15th, 16th and 17th. By the end of 54 holes he was five clear of Nagle. His third-round 67 broke the course record by two shots. By the time Palmer was finished, his 276 total was six better than Nagle, who was the only other player under par.

 

102nd Open Championship 1973 - Amid wet and windy conditions Tom Weiskopf led from the start, a 68 taking him a shot clear of Jack Nicklaus and two ahead of the colourful Johnny Miller. Miller tried really hard to keep pace with Weiskopf who was never quite caught. When Nicklaus slumped to a third-round 76, the position of Weiskopf improved. A fast-finishing Neil Coles birdied four holes on the way home to close with a 66 and move into third, while Nicklaus came back to move into fourth. Weiskopf, however, added a steady round of 70 and that was good enough to finish the week three clear of Miller, with Coles a shot further back. The enduring memory of the week was of the veteran Gene Sarazen, Open champion at Prince’s some 41 years earlier, he made a hole-in-one at the Postage Stamp in the first round. Fortunately his perfect 5-iron shot was caught on film. He made a two the following day, meaning it had taken him a mere three blows to play the par three hole twice.

Known for his exquisite golf swing, Weiskopf never had a single three-putt and led wire-to-wire to win his only major championship at Troon in 1973, just months after the death of his father. The long-hitting American matched Arnold Palmer’s Open record of 276. Tom Weiskopf was the champion, in what would prove to be the tall, elegant American’s only major success.

 

111th Open Championship 1982 - The club had celebrated its centenary and gained its Royal title before this Open. The favourite was Tom Watson, already a three-times Open champion. Bobby Clampett carded a scintillating 67 to take the lead and then 66 to take the halfway lead by seven strokes but his final two rounds were poor. The first beneficiary was Nick Price, a 25-year-old relative newcomer from Zimbabwe, who led the championship on the 13th tee with a three-shot lead. He played the closing holes 4 over par, with a double-bogey at the 15th where Watson, too, had dropped a shot. Watson produced a final round of 70 including an eagle on ‘The Railway’. From the 11th in, Watson played 1 over par, solid but not exactly chasing from the rear. Watson won his fourth of five Open Championships at Troon in 1982 for his second-straight major. He beat Peter Oosterhuis and Nick Price by a single stroke. “When I came off 18, I thought I’d lost,” Watson said. “It’s a funny feeling to win this way because I wasn’t prepared for it. I’ve never had one given to me. I cried and I’m sure they’ll cry a little, too.” Watson joined a short list of champions who had won both Opens in the same year, Bobby Jones (twice), Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan and Lee Trevino. Tiger Woods is the only player since to join them.

 

118th Open Championship 1989 - Seven years later, it was left to a pair of Australians and an American to decide who would win the first-ever four-hole play-off to be used in the Open Championship. Norman began the final round with six successive birdies in a typical charge. His closing 64 was not quite good enough to beat Calcavecchia and Grady, with the latter left to rue a costly bogey at the short 17th. Calcavecchia, by contrast, could thank a long par-saving putt at the 11th and then an outrageous chip in at the 12th, the ball flying down the stick on the full. Further birdies would follow at the 16th and then on the last hole Calcavecchia hit a towering 8-iron from 161 yards out of the right rough on the 18th for birdie and a 68 that would tie Norman. Then Norman’s countryman, Wayne Grady parred the last to make it a threesome in what would be the first aggregate playoff in major championship history. It was four holes, out on Nos. 1 and 2, back on the 17th and 18th. In the play-off, Norman began with two birdies, one clear of Calcavecchia. He made bogey at the 17th leaving the two men tied. After Calcavecchia had found the rough, Norman unleashed a drive that reached a bunker he considered out of play. The American hit the shot of his life with a 5-iron to seven feet while Norman was only able to hit from one bunker to another. His third shot went through the green out of bounds. Calcavecchia was the champion and he said afterwards: “I will remember Royal Troon in 1989 as the place and the time when the course, the weather and my game all came together for one glorious week.”

126th Open Championship 1997 - There was to be yet more American success at Royal Troon in 1997. Only five players would break 70 on a grey, gloomy opening day. Clarke and Jim Furyk were ahead after impressive 67’s but Parnevik was the only man in the field to match let alone break par on the fearsome inward half. The attention focused on Jesper Parnevik, the Swede who’d let the championship slip away from him in ’94, and the Irishman Darren Clarke, who went into the final round two shots behind him. Playing together, Clarke’s hopes skittered out of bounds onto Troon Beach when he shanked a 3-iron off the second tee, sending his Open Championship hopes into hibernation until his victory at Royal St. Georges 14 years later. Justin Leonard, a 25-year-old American, was five shots behind Parnevik beginning the final round and went out in a sterling 31, hitting every green and making six birdies against a lone bogey when he three-putted the fifth. Still, after a birdie 4 on The Railway, the Swede remained two clear of the American. Parnevik bogeyed the 13th when he missed the green while Leonard closed in with a pair of crucial 15-footers at the 15th and 16th, the first for par, the second for birdie. He added another birdie at the 17th. Parnevik missed his 3-footer for birdie at the 16th and bogeyed home to finish three behind, tied with Clarke, a dispiriting second once again. Neither of the Europeans could break par, which places Leonard’s stunning, closing 65 into context. He won by three to win his first and only major championship.

 

133rd Open Championship 2004 - Todd Hamilton was American but as a player he was better known in the Far East. While continually failing in his attempts to get on the U.S. circuit, he’d won 11 times on the Asian Tour. The proficient American finally won a PGA Tour card for the first time in 2003. The following year, he won the Honda Classic and with it a place in the Open. He would be the sixth-successive American champion at Royal Troon, and the least expected winner there since Arthur Havers some 81 years earlier. Hamilton’s secret weapon was a Sonartec MD, a 17-degree hybrid he’d bent to 14-degrees. He used it as a rescue, a fairway wood and far more remarkably as a chipping club on the tight lies around Royal Troon’s greens. Els had a 10-footer on the 72nd hole to win the championship but missed on the left. Phil Mickelson finished a shot out of the Els/Hamilton playoff. Using the same holes as 1989, both parred Nos. 1 and 2. On the third hole, the par-3 17th, Els pulled his tee shot left of the green, played a bump and run and missed the 12-footer, making a bogey to Hamilton’s par. At the 18th, Hamilton drove nervously and left his approach 10 steps short of the green, 30 yards from the hole. Using the hybrid, Hamilton thumped his ball along the turf, rolling it to 2 feet right of the cup. Els had a 12-footer to send them into sudden death but missed again, adding the Open Championship to his Augusta National anguish. In the play-off, Hamilton was steadiness personified, with four pars He repeatedly used his hybrid to great effect, both from the tee and to play chip-and-run shots.

 

145th Open Championship 2016 – Henrik Stenson came out on top over Phil Mickelson in an epic final round, named ‘Duel in the Sun 2’. America’s dominance at Royal Troon came to an end in 2016 with great Open Championship rounds from Henrik Stenson. The pair played 36 holes together at Royal Troon, trading shot for shot, blow for blow, and pulled away from the rest of the field as the weekend passed with the eventual gap between Stenson and third-placed JB Holmes and incredible 14 strokes. Stenson’s battle with Mickelson over the Ayrshire links will go down as one of the most historic head-to-heads in the history of The Open. While the rest of the field struggled to cope with the squally conditions, Stenson compiled a quite astonishing 63 to Mickelson’s scarcely less remarkable 65. Stenson’s round began with a bogey and included 10 birdies by contrast Mickelson’s bogey-free 65, featuring four birdies and an eagle, looked almost mundane. With five holes to play, they were tied for the lead. Stenson birdied four of them and parred the other. Mickelson played the same stretch in one under par, which would have been enough in the circumstances to win many Opens, but not this one. Stenson’s ball-striking, especially his long and mid-iron play, was simply peerless and he won by three. Henrik Stenson finally broke his major duck at the 41st time of asking after winning the 145th Open at Royal Troon in record-breaking fashion to take his place among the all-time greats. The 40-year-old, who also became the first Swede to lift the Claret Jug, started the final day one shot ahead of Phil Mickelson and carded an eight-under-par 63, featuring ten birdies, to claim a three-shot victory with a 20-under-par 264. Stenson said “There have been many great players from my country who have tried and there have been a couple of really close calls. This is going to be massive for golf in Sweden.”

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